Realities of Algorithmic Warfare

As AI and other emerging disruptive technologies are increasingly integrated into all aspects of human life, advanced militaries worldwide have found themselves in what some call an AI arms race, feeding into the third revolution in warfare.

From an inter- and transdisciplinary perspective, this research project engages with the realities of increasing autonomy in warfare through artificial intelligence. From a Conflict Studies, International Relations, Media and Cultural Studies, and Law perspective, we explore how integrating algorithms into existing military technology paves the way for more autonomy, ludification, and remoteness in war, changing the dynamics of the battlefield and posing serious risk to civilians, as well as to fundamental democratic principles like transparency, accountability, and the rule of law.

Advanced military forces like the US, Russia, China, Turkey, and several EU countries including the Netherlands, have been developing, experimenting with, and deploying technologies with various levels of autonomy on various battlefields - ranging from Libya and Syria to Ukraine, Gaza, and beyond. While developers and armed forces promise more effective military engagement through increased speed, academic and public debates often focus on the risks that this brings to meaningful human control in making life-and-death decisions and the scale of civilian harm.

These debates are fed by the expanding number of weapon systems capable of autonomously identifying targets through machine learning algorithms, including the Habsora system, the Agile Condor pods on MQ-9 Reaper drones, loitering munitions, Hivemind AI on VBATs, uncrewed ships and drone swarms.

The Realities of Algorithmic War project engages in in-depth research on the innovation, deployment, and impact of AI systems in the military domain and reflects on how this affects civilian harm, security, human rights, and democratic principles. By engaging with a variety of stakeholders crossing disciplinary thresholds, we collectively contribute to bringing the academic and policy debates forward on topics related to the lived realities of increasing system autonomy in war. We address the following central questions:

Why and how are these military systems developed? How and where are they being experimented with and deployed? How autonomous are they in reality? What impact does their development and deployment have on the character of warfare, civilian harm, and the legitimacy, transparency, and accountability of military operations? Why and how should they be regulated?

RAW works with interdisciplinary scholars and research programmes from a wide range of universities, including AutoNorms (University of Southern Denmark), PLATFORM WARS (University of Antwerp), the Great Power Competition and Remote Warfare Leverhulme project (Royal Holloway University of London), and with Dr. Elke Schwarz from Queen Mary University London. We frequently collaborate with research institutes, think tanks, and NGO’s, including The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS), Airwars, Pax for Peace, and Amnesty International.

We share our research findings and programme output across a large variety of platforms, including academic books, journal articles, conferences, and reports, and provide our analysis in op-eds, podcasts, radio-performances, and documentaries. Every other year, we run a Community Engaged Learning (CEL) project where students collaborate with our stakeholders to address societal issues. Find a full overview of our activities here.

Project Members

  • Jessica Dorsey LLM

    Assistant Professor
  • International Humanitarian Law, Remote Warfare, Human Rights, Artificial Intelligence and Law, Public International Law, Academic and Legal Skills
  • dr. Lauren Gould

    Assistant Professor
  • Conflict Studies, Remote Warfare, Hybrid Warfare, Civilian-Military Relations, Autonomous Weapon Systems, Civilian Harm, Framing Violence
  • Game and Play Studies, Digital Media, Critical Theory, Remote Warfare, Civilian-Military Relations
  • Dr. Marijn Hoijtink

    Research Professor (Associate Professor)
  • Military Technology, Military AI, Civil-Military Relations, Militarism, Digital IR, Science & Technology Studies, Feminism and Critical Security Studies
  • Linde Arentze MA

    PhD Candidate
  • Conflict Studies, Remote Warfare, Military Technology, Military AI, Civil-Military Relations, Military History